Beginning in the sixteenth century, the coinage of choice in the Americas was the Spanish-American dollar.
Beginning in the sixteenth century, the coinage of choice in the Americas was the Spanish-American dollar. These coins were made of precious metal and they were certainly not in short supply, thanks to the abundance of gold and silver in the New World. The coins were often referred to as “pieces of eight” or “8 reales.” Nowadays, if you have a bill or coin and require change, you need to exchange your currency for smaller pieces. One of the most interesting features of the Spanish-American dollar was that it could make its own change! These coins were often divided into eights, known as “reales,” or the anglicized “bits.” Many would recognize the melody of “Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits.” That expression led to the term “two bits” being associated with the 25-cent piece, and it’s interesting that two bits would physically represent one-quarter of a Spanish-American dollar.
By: Charles Paradis
Visitor Services Coordinator